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Q. What were the Nagano Olympics like?


The jump hills at Hakuba (Hakuba Middle School)


The 18th Olympic Winter Games were held in Nagano Prefecture, Japan, from February 7 to 22, 1998. This was the third Olympic Games to be held in Japan, following the 1964 Summer Games in Tokyo and the 1972 Winter Games in Sapporo.

Nagano Prefecture, with its prefectural office in Nagano City, is located in the central eastern part of the Chubu district on the main island of Honshu. It's a landlocked prefecture, surrounded all around by eight other prefectures, and lies on the central highlands of Japan, the widest in the Japanese archipelago. Nagano is home to three mountain ranges with peaks rising about 3,000 meters high - collectively called the Japan Alps and known as "the roof of Japan."


Thousands of spectators watching the outcome of the ski jump events (Hakuba Middle School)

The Olympiad, consisting of 68 events in the seven sports of skiing, skating, ice hockey, bobsleigh, luge, biathlon, and curling, were held in five municipalities: the city of Nagano, the towns of Karuizawa and Yamanouchi, and the villages of Hakuba and Nozawa Onsen.

One theme of the Nagano Olympics was "coexistence with nature." The Nagano Olympics Organizing Committee (NAOC) strove to make the Olympics one in which the natural environment and advanced technology exist side by side.

Since Nagano was the southernmost host city in the history of the Olympic Winter Games, the greatest concern was whether there'd be enough snow. NAOC geared up with the best equipment, so that large portions of the sites, such as the jump hills, could be conditioned with artificial snow.


An award ceremony at Central Square in Nagano City (Shinonoi Nishi Middle School)

As the result of careful preparations, the Nagano Olympics were a huge success.

And thanks to the Nagano Olympics, a new Shinkansen ("bullet train") line debuted in October 1997. Running as fast as 260 kilometers (161 miles) per hour, the train connects Tokyo and Nagano in about half an hour.

Before and during the Olympiad, Nagano City was filled with the Olympic spirit. There was a display featuring a big flag with the Olympic symbol, and surrounding it were the flags of participating countries. These flags were also displayed on main streets of Nagano City together with the advertisements of Olympic sponsors.